Friday, March 29, 2013

AML Conference Tomorrow

The Association for Mormon Letters Conference will take place at the UVU library tomorrow. A few cool things for anyone interested in dropping by during the free event:

1) There will be two scholarly presentations about my novel The Five Books of Jesus (which is free today through Friday on the Kindle) during the 11:30 session.

One, by teacher and poet Jonathon Penny, will also talk about paintings by J. Kirk Richards and may take a detour into how Richards and I are using familiar genres in unfamiliar ways in ways that remind Penny of what Donne and Milton did with form and content in their time. The other, by my brother Mattathias Singh Goldberg Westwood, will talk about the role of the Old Testament in my text, not only in direct quotations of scripture but also in the way the narrative itself is told.

2) Erin Jackson, Emily Harris Adams and I will be reading depictions of Jesus in our own works in a panel at 4 pm at the conference.

Erin Jackson has a short story about a shark and Jesus which I found both quite funny and extremely thought-provoking. I understand that a comic story about a shark and Jesus doesn't fit into everyone's sensibilities, but if you're up to it there are some valuable questions about agency and maybe even what it means to deny the Holy Ghost. Erin is a smart, engaging writer and it's a great piece.

Emily Harris Adams is one of my favorite young Mormon writers. She'll be sharing three poems which deal with Jesus in different ways. She's really a master of indirect portrayals of the Savior, showing in verse how traces of him appear at times in unexpected places. Also: Thomas S. Monson has quoted her poetry in Conference before. Pretty awesome.

3) During the same 11:30 a.m. session as my brother's presentation on my book, I will be presenting on "Jesus in Joanna Brooks' Book of Mormon Girl."

I got the idea for my presentation when a friend who knew I had Book of Mormon Girl on my Kindle asked me to look up references to Jesus for some informal research she was doing. I was immediately struck by the results: the handful of passages with references to Jesus were almost all stories of conflict--between children and parents, Mormons and Evangelicals, the "institutional church" and independent thinkers, Prop 8 supporters and opponents--in which Jesus was used as a weapon between sides to indict each other.

And yet there was very little detail as to what exactly Jesus meant to Brooks. It's possible, of course, that this is simply a narrative omission: Brooks didn't want to go into detail about her view of Jesus because it's tangential to the book's rhetorical purpose. On the other hand, I wonder what Jesus would look like set against the sorts of questions, assumptions, and values that permeate Book of Mormon Girl. How might a person reconcile the gospels' Jesus with the book's distaste for apocalyptic thinking, move from a sin/repentance model for wrong and right in favor of an injustice/activism model, and skepticism about the church's authority to call people to discipleship?

In any case--sorry for the late notice, but be sure to say hi if you come to the AML Conference tomorrow. Sorry also for not blogging here much lately (though many of my readers here might be interested in the "Toward Marriage Clarity" post on my other blog).

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